An Indian express train derailed early Sunday, killing over 100 people in one of the country's worst rail disasters in years, police said, as emergency workers searched the mangled wreckage for survivors. Rescue workers rushed to the scene near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh state where the Patna-Indore express train derailed in the early hours of the morning.
"A lot of teams are currently there including local police, doctors and members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). The rescue operations are on," Daljit Singh Chawdhary, the police director general, told reporters.
Shocked passengers recounted being woken by a violent thud, and told of their desperate search for loved-ones on the train, which was carrying at least one wedding party with the marriage season in India in full swing.
"We woke up to a great thud this morning. It was pitch dark and the noise was deafening," one passenger told reporters as he waited with his family at the scene. "I am lucky to be alive and safe. It was a near-death experience for us."All local hospitals had been placed on alert and around 30 ambulances had been deployed to transport the injured.
TV footage showed rescue workers trying to cut through severely mangled coaches with suitcases and other luggage strewn around. Another 150 were injured and rushed to nearby hospitals, which had been placed on high alert after the early morning disaster.
Compensation for victims, kin
Suresh Prabhu, India's Railways Minister, said in a tweet the government would investigate what caused the derailment and promised the strictest possible action against those found guilty.
Prabhu also announced ex-gratia compensation of 350,000 rupees to the kin of the deceased, 50,000 rupees to each of the seriously injured and 25,000 rupees to each of the others injured. India's railway network, one of the world's largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the vast country, but it is poorly funded and deadly accidents occur relatively frequently.
In 2014, an express train ploughed into a stationary freight train, also in Uttar Pradesh, killing 26 people. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was "anguished beyond words" by the loss of life.
Modi mourned the deaths and announced ex-gratia of 200,000 rupees for the next of kin of those killed and 50,000 for those seriously injured. Modi's government has pledged to invest $137 billion over five years to modernise its crumbling railways, making them safer, faster and more efficient.